Essex MP speaks to ongoing trade deals

Filed under: IN THE NEWS |

by Adam Gault

With today’s signing of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), Essex MP Tracey Ramsey said that the federal Liberal government has withheld the details of several of the agreement’s side letters, demonstrating a lack of transparency that could prove problematic for several segments of the population.

“From what we can see so far, there are no progressive elements, or anything new inside of there,” Ramsey explained.

“When the Liberals are talking about their progressive trade agenda, they’re talking about things like gender, Indigenous rights, labour, none of those things are included in this new TPP. There’s not much progressive about this deal, and it still contains the same dangerous components about it that it did before.”

The side letters in question will be a part of the agreements, but are not enforceable, and face no accountability as to whether they are adhered to. One of the letters of the agreement pertains to the protection of the automotive sector, but like the others, the details of the letter will not be released until the deal is signed.

“This is the large complaint about these side letters on all trade agreements. They’ve just been criticized because there is no way to enforce whatever is written down,” Ramsey said. “Three of the side letters that we do know are coming forward on March 8 pertain to auto. We don’t know what’s in them, that won’t be revealed until the eighth, so we’re going to be watching very closely to understand what their implications are.”

Ramsey expressed concerns regarding the negotiation of the deal itself, noting that it had been “shrouded in secrecy,” which she said has been in direct contrast to the more transparent dealings of the ongoing NAFTA negotiations.

“(With NAFTA) there’s been this wide consultation, there’s kind of a big tent where everyone’s been brought in, and their opinions are being brought forward, whether it’s in councils or different ways, they’ve shared pieces along the way,” Ramsey explained. “Then we have TPP where none of that has happened. We believe that in order for trade agreements to be good for Canadians, they should be transparent. They should be available for Canadians to read and understand before they go into force and it starts to impact our lives and our communities.”

Moving into NAFTA negotiations, Ramsey spoke in favour of the proposed removal of the Chapter 11 investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), which left Canada open to litigation from international corporate interests.

“This provision has caused us to be the most sued country in the world. In NAFTA, we’ve largely been sued for trying to protect our environment,” Ramsey said. “Corporations can sue us for any amount they see fit, and this actually takes place in a secret tribunal. So, the public doesn’t have access to the system itself, to be a witness to the system, and we’ve paid out over $200 million in costs and legal fees, so it has cost us significantly.”

With the Trump administration’s announcement of new global import tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum, Ramsey said she has reached out to our Ministers of Trade to act in order to protect our manufacturing sector in the wake of these implementations.

“This has massive implications for our manufacturing across the country, as well as locally. Atlas Tube is a major employer for us regionally, and it’s critical that we protect those good paying jobs,” Ramsey commented. “Will it be that the government will give up something in NAFTA, or will it be that Canada retaliates with our own tariff on steel. Then we really start to enter some sort of a trade war, which is not something that we want to do with our closest partner.”